SAGA OF DARKNESS VISION OF LIGHT
Chapter 3 - Ghost Dancers
by Dennis R. Cook
After we finished loading the 4X4, Steven returned to
the porch to say good-bye to Sarah. I began
thinking about our journey. The thought of going
to New Mexico intrigued me. The choice of a high
place in New Mexico as a vantage point from which to
purify oneself spiritually seemed to me an intriguing
way to become acclimated to a new environment.
I thought of New Mexico in two ways. First, there
was "the land of enchantment," a land of intricate
beauty sculptured through the inroads of time and
relentless winds. Second, there was the land of
the Navajo, the Anasazi, and the Zuni, a land perfected
by the tears of broken hearts, cast down spirits, and
shattered dreams, a place where true native Americans
fought to overcome their pain through their strong wills
and strong faith. Others, however, I would learn,
were bent upon gaining respectability by ignoble, even
disreputable means, building their castles on the
downtrodden. Unfortunately, it would not take long
for me to get to know the latter.
We were headed to a remote mountain called "Old Furry"
not more than an hour's drive from the four corners
area. I wasn't sure Steven and I were
supposed to be atop "Old Furry" at any time. The
Navajo, most of them anyway, were forbidden by religious
tradition to traverse more than half way up. The
huge, painted face of Death on the west face,
Steven told me, was an earnest attempt to keep
We didn't intend disrespect, but Steven told me to say,
if anyone asked, that we were solely intent upon a
little communion with nature and the Great Spirit that
supposedly inhabited the mountain. Steven's more
exact explanation for our journey up the mountain,
however, was a bit more complex. He insisted that
our journey would enable us to attain a more pure
spiritual perspective, tune ourselves to the more exact
movement of the Great Spirit, and develop an attitude in
line with the native belief systems, one that would not
overly imbalance the ethereal ecological plain.
Steven yelled, "let's go," after his extended goodbye to
Sarah wasn't going with us. Still had business. I
was about to ask Steven what it was she did, but Steven
the fore-thinker had already shoved what I found out to
be one of many Old Blackgoat tapes into his cassette
player. Seems he had numerous copies.
Lucky me! I disdained being rude, so I determined
My dear people, "it is true that we, the Navajo, as well
as other native American cultures, have a deeply defined
spirituality, that does, in a sense, give us our beauty,
but knowing the Holy Father as I do, I can only see our
tears, the result of a naive association with demonic
influences, influences that have blessed us with
poverty, sickness, and death.
True, the white American was the noose around our neck,
the instrument of Father's judgment, and cause for the
removal of many of our native American cultures far from
what they might have called their own land, but I hasten
to point out, this same lesson Father has been trying to
teach the whole of humanity since the dawning of
recorded history. God judges nations that become
overly attracted to spiritual influences not His own.
We must not forget the lesson of Israel, who, although
the instrument of right judgment upon the peoples
worshiping and romancing demons round about her, later
became the captives, killed, enslaved, and abandoned;
all the result of the Israelites’ involvement in the
occult. Baal and all that.
So, my people, the true Americans, take heart. Dry your
tears. Father is right and just. What comes
around, goes around. If the white American
vanguard of our society persists in wading ever deeper
into this generation's occult explosion, rest assured,
their fate will be worse than ours.
And remember, too, it takes Father considerably longer
to make a statement to humanity using analogical data.
His ways are so much higher, and to him, a day is as a
thousand years, and a thousand years a day.
The sermon continued like that, but you get the picture.
I don't know how many cassettes authored by Old
Blackgoat we had listened to between Palo Alto and the
Four Corners area of New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, and
Utah, but believe me, I got the picture, too!
Relief from the noisome pestilence (ha!) came as we
entered the expanse of Navajo territory just north of
our destination. Old Furry was in sight, but as
Steven put it, we might have some difficulty or other.
"We need to keep all our wits about us through here,"
Steven informed me, with deep concern. "Be on the
lookout for any topographic change that seems odd to
"Reason?" I queried.
"Quick sand, for one thing," Steven clued me.
"Some of these dirt roads out here can be real 'dead
ends' if you know what I mean."
"Deep enough to swallow your 4X4?" I questioned.
"Don't want to find out, do you Joseph?"
"Guess that's an understatement," I replied sheepishly.
"Anything else I need to know?"
"Be on the lookout for Kachina dancers," Steven mumbled.
"What's a China dancer doing out here on the
reservation?" I questioned naively.
dancer, Joseph, Kachina means ghost or spirit in Navajo.
Don't you know anything about Navajo religious history?
I know you took at least one course in Comparative
Religion at Duke."
"Well, forget about all that stuff," I said, "make your
point...hey...what is that, Steven? What is going
on out there?" I pointed out my window mountainward
where numerous pickup trucks were parked near a blazing
"Ah, shoot! Joseph," Steven exploded, "that is what I
was trying to tell you about."
On further inspection, I could make out several dozen
young bucks and squaws dancing at a fevered pace not
three hundred yards off to our right toward the base of
Old Furry. The only thing that alarmed me about
the dancers was their lack of attire, but soon Steven's
bizarre reactions told me there was much more.
He slammed on the brakes of his 4X4, and pounded his
fist against the steering column.
"Now listen very carefully to what I'm about to tell you
to do, Joseph," Steven breathed, regaining some
semblance of self control. "There are two cans of
gasoline in the back, one on either side of the cargo
bin. Crawl in the back and get one. Unscrew
the cap. Open the back latch. Get out.
Pour the gasoline all the way around the 4X4. Make
sure the beginning and ending of the gasoline trail
meet. Get back in the 4X4 and start praying.
"Gotcha," I said.
"Go!" Steven ordered.
slithered between the front bucket seats and crawled
past bags and stuff to the cargo area and grabbed the
can on my right, unscrewed the lid, unlatched the cargo
door, then swung my legs out. I made short work of
delivering the gasoline to the targeted area, and made
my way back up front, taking just enough care along the
way to replace the gas can lid. I started
praying..., but stopped short when Steven tossed a
lighted match stick out his window.
"Oh, *#*$&!" I yelled.
"Relax, Joseph," Steven cautioned, "I think we'll be
"Whoosh!" The sound of torched gasoline streaking
around the 4X4 startled me.
"How can I relax sitting in a ring of fire with nude
Kachina dancers dancing near dusk?" I demanded.
"Don't worry," Steven chided, "they won't bother us now.
They'll think we just called on a powerful demon for
protection, and that's why we invoked the power of the
unbroken circle. See," Steven pointed, "they're
"You sure?" I asked. "Are they disbursing or are
they coming after us?"
"Relax," Steven chided me again, they are more afraid of
us than we are of them. They enjoy casting spells on the
unsuspecting, but want no part in a counter attack."
I wasn't so sure. I kept my eyes on them as they
faded into the background. One pickup truck
remained behind as the others sped off toward the
northeast, the way we had come.
Steven put the 4X4 into gear, and we cautiously resumed
the last leg of our journey. I was speechless, but
I had questions. Steven seemed to sense my
"I'll catch you up on things out here before long,
Joseph," Steven began. "Those ghost dancers were
young practicing satanists and witches. Ghost dancing,
as it was practiced toward the turn of the twentieth
century wasn't a threat to anyone. I guess a
couple of different forms of the ritual come to mind.
First, there was the traditional. Most tribes in
North America encouraged their young men to go on a
vision quest. From time to time one of the seekers
would receive a special revelation which would benefit
an entire tribe. Such occurrences were rare, but
special enough to rate a celebration. Dancing
ensued. It was that simple.
Second, there was the vision of Wakova, a native
American converted to Christianity in the 1880's.
One afternoon during a solar eclipse, the young buck
fell prostrate into a trance. There, the Lord told
him he must teach all Indian tribes to love and forgive.
Made quite a stir. Dancing ensued. It was
"What about what we saw, Steven?" I asked. "What
was so dangerous about that dancing?"
"Nothing simple about it, Joseph, those dancers we saw
out there were young satan worshipers calling up demons.
Didn't want those youngsters or their demons following
us up the mountainside."
* * *
Even though our first night on the mountain had the
potential to begin with clear skies and twinkling stars,
storms were in the forecast. Steven had gone off
to look for shelter while there was still some remaining
sunlight, and left me to guard the 4X4.
would have been the perfect opportunity for me to
meditate, but the instant Steven disappeared over a
nearby rise, I picked up on the sound of automobile
tires rolling ever so slowly over the rocky mountain
road toward me. I bristled. Was it the lone pickup truck
that had remained behind, back, and far below at the
ghost dancer’s ritual site?
we being followed? Or was I just being paranoid?
I was confused. My intuition was screaming,
clouding my judgment. Hadn’t we run them off?
didn't want to leave Steven's 4X4 in search of him, it
might not be there on our return. On the other
hand, better the sacrifice of the vehicle than our
Nearby was an overhang that afforded a view of the
approaching vehicle. Getting a glimpse of the
occupants in advance of their arrival might enable me to
calm down, and put my intuition to rest.
That was not to be. A shiny, black, late model,
double cab, six wheeler, rolled into view on the winding
mountain trail below me. Dark tinted glass windows
on all sides made it virtually impossible for me to see
who was about to pay me a visit. The vehicle’s
visage did not fill me with hope, however, just concern.
I returned to the 4X4 determined to make a
stand if necessary. I devised a plan, envisioning
my actions as I walked.
Soon, the stylish pickup rolled to a stop near‑by.
My heart raced. I took a deep breath and prepared
to greet the occupants, heart-rate quickening all the
more at the sound of doors opening, first on the
passenger's side of the vehicle, then on the driver's
Black hats and cowboy boots came into my line of vision
above and below the shimmering surface of the pickup's
doors. I swallowed hard. Then I overheard a
female's voice from the backseat, whisper, "please don't
do it, Harley."
"Shut up, Arlena," I heard the one called Harley say.
Afterward, he turned his tall Navajo frame toward me,
and revealed his face for the first time.
I didn't like what I saw. There before me stood a
very angry young man. I couldn't see the face of
the other young buck, who was still standing on the
other side of the pickup, but I assumed that his face
was just as contorted.
"Well," I thought to myself, "welcome to the
"What can I do for you?" I asked the young Navajo before
he could get too close.
"I'll ask the questions," the angry youth shot back.
"What are you belladonnas doing up here on our sacred
"Thank God Steven had prepared me to respond to that
question," I thought, before answering the youthful
"My friend and I are here to commune with nature and the
Great Spirit that inhabits this mountain," I said.
"The Great Spirit will not hear you," the young buck
snapped, "you are not a medicine man. The mountain
is sacred. Get off our mountain!
"If the Great Spirit does not want us here," I snapped
back, "then let Him drive us away. You are not
going to drive us away," I continued. "You saw our
magic down in the valley. Our magic is powerful.
We are more than capable of dealing with the likes of
you and your spirits. Besides," I continued, "you
do not know where my friend is. He may have a
rifle trained on you this very moment."
That got the young buck to thinking. He dropped
his eyes, turned and walked around the front of his
truck to confer with his companion, who was still a
non‑participant in our little battle of wits.
"Harley," the other young man pleaded, "Arlena told you
not to do this. She is afraid we will wind up in
jail. We cannot afford that. I must
work to provide a living for my family, and Arlena must
be free to nurse our baby."
"We will let the spirits of the mountain deal with them,
then," Harley said, making certain I overheard the reply
he gave to his companion. “But Torre, I warn you,
this is the last time you interfere in my work.”
He is even more angry, now, than when he arrived, I
thought, as the mean spirited youth returned to the
driver's side of his pickup, slid in behind the wheel,
and slammed the door.
I watched them turn and followed their tail-lights as
they braked repetitively, going back down the mountain.
Darkness was closing in, in more ways than one, it
seemed. Still, there was no sign of Steven.
I surveyed the sky for ominous looking clouds.
Satisfied that storms weren't eminent, I sighed deeply
before taking a seat on a near‑by rock.
I finally had the perfect opportunity to meditate, and
recall the unfamiliar sights and sounds I had
experienced that day. I wondered if my experience
was perhaps similar to those experienced by shepherds on
plush, foliaged, mountainsides of long ago. The
expanse of the universe lay stretched out before their
eyes with grandeur unparalleled, stretched out like a
canvas, stroked with the hand of all majesty, perfected
and to be admired, breathtaking in it's appeal, finished
by His hand with an exclamation of His infinitesimal
It was no wonder man sought the painter whose genius
wrought on canvas the wonders he beheld. Old
Furry, the mountain we were on, was one of those
wonders. At first glance it had reminded me of one
of my granddad's biceps. Granddad had been raised
on a family farm back when farm work either built your
back or broke it. Pounding fence posts and toting
bales of hay, coupled with massive quantities of egg and
milk protein, produced a powerful man. He took
great pride in showing off his massive biceps, and, as a
child, I never tired of admiring them. Granddad
would unbutton the shirt sleeve of his red flannel
shirt, and push the sleeve above his biceps. Like
Old Furry, the biceps broke sharply downward from the
top, before gently sloping all the way to its base.
The mountain got its name from its "furriness".
From a distance, the greenery that sprouted from its
sides seemed to be kin in texture, to bear fur.
I decided that whatever time we spent seeking the Great
Spirit on Old Furry was going to be beneficial after
all. I was more confident. Though death
roamed the valley below and demons the countryside, I
made up my mind to see the mission through to the end.
I believed we would find the culprit conjuring the
substance Steven had named pure faith.
Although the story Steven had unfolded to me in Palo
Alto of hair-raising events on the Navajo reservation
was somewhat unnerving, his tale of how he and Old
Blackgoat had come upon the cave of the serpent sounded
a battle cry, and somehow, deep within, I knew I had
Perhaps if our offensive against ritual sacrifice on the
reservation was successful, that is to say, particularly
if we could pin back the ears of a few leaders, young
bucks like Harley might not be so confrontational.
The demons driving them might have to find new
The fact that Steven had brought home the real substance
of faith gave my hope for all young people a foundation
with new depth. I prayed the future would allow me
to explore more exactly the real construct, but knew God
had not delivered the unique opportunity into our hands
for any reason except for His glory, the advancement of
His Kingdom, and the acknowledgment of His Truth.
My meditation period continued. I leaned back on
my rock pallet and sought to become one with the
glowing, twinkling orbs that appeared each night to wink
at us from so far away.
I gave up on Steven and gave in to meditation. After
all, we had come to the mountain to fast and pray.
Perhaps that is what he was doing. Or perhaps he was
still seeking shelter for us. He had been
thoughtful enough to take a lantern with him. I
determined not to worry about him unless my intuition
sounded an alarm.
As I continued to gaze dreamily into the
ever‑brightening night‑time sky, for some reason, the
air around me seemed to thicken. At first, I
concluded the phenomena represented the first sign of an
impending storm, that is, an increase in air moisture,
but momentarily, I, myself, was enveloped in a blanket
of thin, white, cloud wisps that weren't at all like the
cumulonimbus I was expecting.
Like an intense, deep, night dream, my senses
heightened. The atmosphere around me suddenly
exploded with blazing sunlight. I felt the mighty
power of red-hot summer rays on my arms and shoulders.
Then, as my eyes focused, I found myself gazing at what
I understood intuitively to be a once forbidden ritual
purification ceremony called the Sun Dance.
"Is this another form of the ghost dance?" I wondered,
as I gazed intently at the proceedings. I marveled at
what I saw. Many natives were moaning and groaning
in the spirit. Others were chanting emotion filled
prayers, pleadings, and thanksgivings. All were
In the center of it all, one lone warrior was preparing
a sacrifice..., himself. With a sharp knife, the
brave cut a short gash in the flesh and muscle of the
left, upper portion of his chest.
Although bleeding profusely from the self inflicted
wound, the proud buck walked to a near‑by tree that had
been stripped of all foliage and bark. Several
leather straps were attached to it, and at the end of
each strap, a small dowel rod was affixed.
I shuddered, fully realizing what the warrior intended
to do with the dowel rod. He picked up the small
stick and secured it beneath the bleeding gash he had
created in his own skin.
I winced. The bold native began walking backwards until
he, strap, and rod were pulling mightily against the
tree while gazing, with eyes wide open, directly into
the punishing rays of sunlight pummeling down upon him.
"And all this without so much as even one little flinch,
wince, or hint of pain," I thought, as the man of valor
increased the tension on the leather strap, rod, and
tree to the point, where, I thought I must burst forth
with a scream if the warrior didn't.
"Arrggh!" came the guttural cry from the proud buck.
Breaking free from the tethered thong, he collapsed
backward, eyes still full ablaze with the sun's glory.
"What can all this mean?" I groaned within, through my
impassioned state of wonderment. Then I
understood... My mind leaped! I perceived the
truth...Through much affliction we must enter the
Kingdom of Heaven....
Then, the revelation of what was occurring hit me… I was
experiencing a vision. Was the vision a portent of
what was to come for Steven, Old Blackgoat, and me?
"Joseph!" Steven yelled. “Joseph! Can't you see,
man…That was lightning! Hurry, get in the 4X4!"
I hadn't noticed the storm come up behind me. If
not for Steven's sudden appearance I might have been
toast! A crisp thunderclap jolted me. The
sky was so close I could feel the raw electricity in the
air. It was uncanny. One moment all was
calm, the next we were enveloped by a shroud of
electrons and the smell of ozone. Reaching the
4X4, a biting spark nipped my fingers at the first touch
of the door handle. "Thank God, I thought,
"there's no such thing as static cling where metal is
“Ouch”! I moaned.
"You Ok," Steven panted, once we were safely inside his
"No harm done here," I said. "How about you?
"Not much the worse from the wear," Steven joked, but I
may have gained a pound or two from the excess
laughed. "You may not be able to shed those extra
pounds, either, until we get out of this storm."
"Couldn't find suitable shelter," Steven said, still
breathing hard. "Guess we aren't high enough up.
Old Blackgoat told me we would be lucky to find a
suitable overhang, and even luckier to find the small
cave he had heard about. Guess it doesn't
matter.., my conscience has been bothering me ever since
we got here. I know now we should be with Old
Blackgoat. We'll head down at first light."
I said nothing of my experiences at the time. I
doubted he would believe me anyway.
We awoke to sunshine. That made our trip down ‘Ol
Furry a pleasant one. I took note of the rain droplets
on evergreen foliage that gripped the mountainside with
fierce, unyielding determination. The pines and
firs were like the inhabitants of the land I surmised, a
people who would not give their lives easily to change,
for season to season, day in and day out, they were the
same. Their roots were iron spikes in concrete.
They were not meant to be moved from the land of their
enchantment. Move them and they would die.
They would not make up a hedge around a yard, or
brighten a home on Christmas day. They were the
land, and to their land they would return. The sun
and sky were above them, but they were in the land, and
the land was in them.
Steven got my attention by thumping my chest with a
heavy right hand. "Look due south. That's
Window Rock," he said, stopping the 4X4, and placing his
left leg out of the cab. "Sometimes you can see
for a hundred miles or more when the sun is out and
there is a high sky like this morning. Believe me,
if Old Blackgoat's church was the size of Shiprock, you
would think you could reach out and touch it."
"Excuse me, Steven," I Interrupted, "but I thought you
said that was Window Rock.."
"That is Window Rock," Steven protested. "Shiprock
is north of here. I said you would think you could
reach out and touch Shiprock, not Windowrock, because
Shiprock is so much more grand. You'll see what I
"Ok," I know it's early, and I'm not quite with it yet,
but what the heck is Shiprock?"
"You don't know about Shiprock?" Steven scoffed.
"Well, you're just greener than a gourd. The
Navajo will sure have a field day with you. Better
hide your money. Better yet, hide it under a rock.
There's Shiprock, Windowrock, Frogrock, Roundrock...take
your pick, but you better hide your money."
"I don't get it, Steven," I puzzled all the more.
"Don't take me seriously all the time," Steven ribbed.
"You'll do fine with the Navajo. As we go through
the community of Navajo momentarily I'll show you
Our mountain trail ultimately left the north face of Old
Furry and intersected a dirt road. It curved
around the mountain taking us back to the main road
which ran through the small native community of Navajo.
Frogrock wasn't much to look at, but then again who
spends a great deal of time looking at a frog.
Ships have some majestic appeal, or at least I think so.
Shiprock, I thought, might be the interesting sight
Steven portrayed it as, but I wasn't convinced Roundrock
would make my day, although I respected their importance
to the Navajo.
The fact Steven had not pointed the landmarks out to me
on our way to Old Furry held no significance.
After all, we were single minded in our pursuit of
becoming combat ready, although the gorgeous Sunday
morning wasn't doing much more than taking my mind on
flights of fancy.
According to Steven, Navajo was a community in limbo.
The Navajo tribal headquarters located in Windowrock,
Arizona, was only twenty or twenty five miles away or
so. If not the state of Arizona, I thought, why
doesn't the tribe itself spend some money to build the
community up. Of all the things I knew about the
Navajo, which wasn't much, I did know the men needed
more job opportunities.
Except for a few small businesses and the local schools
which served a broad area in the surrounding community,
Navajo was a community in need of progress. When I
expressed my views to Steven, he helped my perspective
as I knew he would. As I mentioned earlier, Steven
was an expert at sharpening perspectives. I still
don't know how he made it through graduate school.
His arrogance could not have gone unnoticed.
"The Navajo are keen on bringing interested parties onto
the reservation to promote the upward mobility of the
population." This, Steven advised me as we crossed the
cattle guard that signaled our exit from the community.
"It won't be long until the Navajo have a great many
more opportunities to provide a higher standard of
living for their families, shorten the distance they
have to travel for necessities, and enjoy a better
"Some of the tribal elders are not too keen on the idea
of modern education, though. Old Blackgoat said it
best, "I have heard of Einstein's Theory of Relativity.
It was a great theory. I wish we had a great
theory that would help our young people learn, but we
are not so fortunate, here. The educators here
believe in advancing their own theory. I call it
the theory of relative stupidity, the closer you get to
central office, the dumber you get."
Steven continued, "The tribal elders feel that modern
education has taken their children away from the roots
of their culture, and it probably has. One way
they have countered is by insisting school curricula
include a block of time for instruction of their
children in the old ways. I think that's great as
long as Christianity continues to flourish here.
That's why we're here, though, right, Joseph?"
"Wouldn't have it any other way," I said, as Old Furry
left our view for the time being. "I wouldn't have
it any other way."